SmileDirectClub and byte have a lot in common. Both clear aligner services offer at-home teeth straightening, and both are significantly more affordable than braces or Invisalign. But when you dig a bit deeper, there are actually some major differences between these companies’ service offerings that aren’t so apparent on the surface.
We’re here to help you decipher these differences and hone in on the features that are most important to you. In this comparison review, we’ll take you on an in-depth tour of SmileDirectClub and byte, and provide all the information you need to choose the best home teeth aligner for you.
Table of Contents
Overview and Recommendation
Bottom Line: Both Companies Offer Big Savings and Convenience
SmileDirectClub and byte both offer a convenient and affordable alternative to visiting your dental provider for Invisalign treatment. With either service, you’ll receive a set of custom invisible aligners shipped directly to your home. But after that, the differences between them become more clear.
Two Great Companies, but We Recommend byte
SmileDirectClub was the first company to offer invisible aligners online in 2014. They’ve been around longer and have a larger following than byte, especially considering that byte just started in 2018. However, byte boasts the industry’s fastest treatment time and uses innovative technology to create more effective aligners. Because of this, we awarded them the top spot in our home aligner rankings. In many ways, byte took SmileDirectClub’s winning formula and improved on it.
Why do we rank byte higher than SmileDirectClub? Two reasons:
- Orthodontist Supervised: Unlike SmileDirectClub, byte guarantees that every customer’s treatment plan will be reviewed by an accredited orthodontist. That’s a big deal! Orthodontists receive six years of specialized training learning how to adjust teeth safely and effectively. SmileDirectClub only guarantees that your care is reviewed by a dentist, who may or may not be an orthodontist. These individuals are highly-educated and qualified, but don’t have the next-level expertise of an orthodontist.
- Faster Treatment Time: This is where byte truly shines, separating themselves from not just SmileDirectClub, but the entire home aligner industry. Their proprietary HyperByte device, which uses gentle vibrations to shift teeth more quickly, gives byte an average treatment time of 3 months. This cuts SmileDirectClub’s 6-month window in half and makes byte the fastest home aligner treatment available.
We think these factors really matter. At the end of the day, it’s not just your money. It’s also your teeth. To us, it makes sense to go with a company that ensures not just top-quality treatment, but fast results as well.
Provided you are a good candidate for at-home aligners, byte and SmileDirectClub both have a good track record for effectiveness. But byte goes above and beyond in this category, promising that your care will be developed and overseen by an orthodontist, working with an established manufacturer, and utilizing innovative technologies to provide a more effective product and process.
- Works exclusively with orthodontists
- Unclear who they partner with for manufacturing
- HyperByte technology decreases the average treatment time to 3 months
- Not as experienced, having been founded in 2018
- Cuts aligners straight across the top for extra power
- Works with orthodontists and general dentists.
- Once partnered with Align Technology to manufacture aligners, but now produces their aligners in-house.
- Average treatment time is 6 months
- Has extensive experience and brand power
- Also uses a straight cut for extra aligner power
byte stands out compared to SmileDirectClub by ensuring your care will be overseen by an orthodontist licensed in your state. This is a big deal because orthodontists receive many years of specialized training so that they can spot and address even the most subtle alignment issues. Having an orthodontist monitoring your care increases the likelihood of an outstanding adjustment, and reduces the risk of something going wrong during treatment.
By comparison, SmileDirectClub works with both general dentists and orthodontists to oversee patient treatment plans, so there’s no guarantee that an orthodontist will oversee your case.
SmileDirectClub once partnered with Align Tech (the creators of Invisalign) to manufacture their clear aligners. We were huge fans of this partnership, as Align Tech has long been known for producing top-quality, highly-effective aligners. These days, however, SmileDirectClub produces most of its aligners in-house. This introduces a certain amount of uncertainty with regard to the level of quality and effectiveness you can expect when you order from SmileDirectClub.
byte does not explicitly share their manufacturing partnership, but they clearly communicate that their aligners are made of safe, BPA-free plastic. While we assume that they work with a reputable producer, at this point we can’t be 100% sure.
SmileDirectClub has been in the home aligner game longer, there’s no doubt about that. But over the past few years, they haven’t introduced any game-changing technology or modifications. As an established, experienced company, they’ve simply relied on their track record, reputation, and results, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
But byte, an upstart in the field, has shown unrivaled ambition by developing and implementing technologies that drastically impact their treatment’s effectiveness. The aforementioned HyperByte is completely unique to byte’s treatment, shortening the overall timeframe like no other company can. Plus, unlike other companies, byte uses a special software called Smile Science to evaluate your entire facial structure when designing your treatment plan. This allows their orthodontists to craft a smile that fits your features perfectly.
Both companies make aligners that cover the gums, which can make them more effective. Not all home aligners cover the gums, but those that do are able to induce more powerful teeth movements. These aligners use the gums as a point of leverage to pivot and push the teeth into alignment. Home clear aligners that are trimmed to follow the gumline are less powerful than those that cover the gums like SmileDirectClub and byte.
One of the first things many adults check when considering home aligner treatment is their budget. Which provider offers lower prices? Overall, byte and SmileDirectClub are almost identical in terms of affordability. They both offer the same initial price and similar payment plans. In fact, they really only vary when it comes to additional costs.
- $1,895 sticker price
- Includes aftercare retainers in initial cost
- Impression kit is $95
- Financing requires a down payment but no credit check (everyone is approved!)
- $1,895 sticker price
- Charges $99 for retainers after treatment
- Impression kit is $49 (or free at a SmileShop location)
- Financing requires a down payment but no credit check (everyone is approved!)
If you’re making a decision based purely on the initial price, this will be tough because SmileDirectClub and byte both cost $1,895. There is a difference, however, when you consider impression kit and retainer costs. SmileDirectClub’s impression kit is $49, whereas byte’s is $95, and neither is included in the sticker price.
SmileDirectClub, however, gives you the option to skip the impression kit by visiting one of their SmileShops for a free teeth scan. byte does not have any physical locations, but they do include retainers in their upfront cost. SmileDirectClub, on the other hand, charges an additional $99 for retainers at the end of treatment. Even after this give-and-take, both companies’ total costs come out almost equal.
Payment Plan Options
As you think about cost, you should also keep in mind how you might finance your treatment. Again, SmileDirectClub and byte offer very similar options. Both provide financing for all customers, no credit check required. Here are the details:
- SmileDirectClub offers a 24-month financing plan ($85/month), which does not require a credit check but does require a $250 down payment.
- byte’s 25-month plan ($83/month) requires a $249 down payment and doesn’t require a credit check either.
The differences are almost non-existent, so either company is a great option, especially if you aren’t confident in your credit score. With both services, you’ll pay a bit extra to finance your care when you factor in the interest paid over time by financing, so it’s worth it to pay upfront if you can make the finances work!
Both companies include free whitening to accompany your aligners, which is a nice touch that allows you to brighten your smile while you straighten your teeth. byte also includes their HyperByte device with your treatment cost. This is a huge benefit to you, as HyperByte is what makes byte’s 3-month treatment time possible, and it retails for $699 on its own.
All things considered, both companies offer strong value, especially when compared to Invisalign or braces, which will typically set you back $5,000 or more.
With a Nighttime-only treatment plan and hundreds of SmileShops across the U.S. that make it easy to get started, Convenience is one area where SmileDirectClub flourishes. byte’s services are convenient in their own right (especially considering their average treatment time) but this is where SmileDirectClub really goes above and beyond.
- No physical locations that offer teeth scans, so you’ll need to use an impression kit
- Recently announced a nighttime-only option that requires aligner use for only 10 hours per day
- Allows you to use aligners and whitening products simultaneously
- Has 300+ SmileShops for free teeth scans as an alternative to impression kits
- Offers a nighttime-only option that only requires aligner wear for 10 hours per day
- Also allows simultaneous aligner and whitening use
When getting started with SmileDirectClub or byte, you’ll need to send the company images of your teeth. You can purchase an impression kit from either company and use it to create molds of your top and bottom dental arches. However, impression kits can be difficult, especially considering the fact that most customers have never taken molds of their own teeth. And if you choose byte, this is the only option, so you’re stuck taking your own impression.
Go with SmileDirectClub, on the other hand, and you can visit any of their 300+ SmileShops for a free teeth scan. If you’d rather not deal with the hassle of taking impressions, or if you’re eager to start treatment, you can pop into a SmileShop where a dental assistant will scan your teeth for free. This will allow the company to get started on your care plan as quickly as possible.
Looking for a fast and easy startup process? SmileDirectClub has a clear advantage over byte.
Both byte and SmileDirectClub include teeth whitening products with your aligners, so you can brighten that smile while you straighten your teeth. With some other options like Smilelove, you can only whiten after you complete your aligner treatment, making byte and SmileDirectClub more convenient options.
This is a relatively new trend in the home aligner industry. Typically, you would wear your aligners for 22 hours per day. But for anyone who doesn’t think they can stick to that schedule, or would rather not remove and replace their aligners to eat and drink, SmileDirectClub and byte have each introduced a nighttime-only option.
These aligners are exactly the same as the ones you would receive for an all-day schedule, but you only wear each set for 10 hours per day over two weeks instead of one. Of course, this stretches out the overall timeline – extending SmileDirectClub’s to 10 months and byte’s to 6 months (on average). Nighttime aligners are a more convenient option for either company, although byte maintains its advantage in speed.
Currently, these are the only two companies offering a nighttime-only treatment option, but we wouldn’t be surprised if others started to jump on the bandwagon soon. For more information, check out our in-depth nighttime aligner comparison guide.
Both byte and SmileDirectClub provide clear aligners that fit the contours of your teeth and are much less visible than traditional braces, but there are some small differences in the materials they use that impact each product’s appearance.
- Uses a smooth, translucent, shiny plastic
- Reasonably stain resistant
- Uses a frosted, textured plastic
- Reasonably stain resistant
SmileDirectClub fashions their aligners from a “frosted” plastic, while byte uses a smooth, shiny one. What’s the difference? If you want to know our opinion, it’s that aligners made from frosted plastic are actually more discreet because they mimic the naturally-matte surface of your teeth. Shiny material can be reflective and actually more noticeable.
However, this debate is largely subjective and depends on your personal preference. Some customers, for example, appreciate byte’s shiny plastic because they think it makes their smiles gleam. You should consider which you prefer before making your final decision.
Both companies make aligners that are resistant to staining, but we would not recommend drinking colored beverages while wearing them.
Customer Service Comparison
You want a home aligner company that makes you feel valued and provides quick support when you need it most. When it comes to customer service, byte is the clear winner.
Both companies offer comparable support options, but in examining a large number of customer reviews, we found that byte stands out in terms of responsiveness and overall helpfulness of company representatives. Plus, they offer a unique lifetime warranty that covers your smile forever.
byte Customer Service
SmileDirectClub Customer Servcie
- Offers standard communication avenues and will respond on social media as well
- Provides each customer with a personal byte advisor to answer questions
- Receives consistently positive customer reviews
- The byte-For-Life guarantee ensures your smile forever
- Offers numerous communication avenues
- Received some negative reviews in the past, but seems to be turning it around
- Will work to modify your plan if you’re not satisfied, plus offers a full refund within 30 days of starting treatment
Both companies are available during standard business hours on a variety of support platforms – phone, webchat, and email. byte is very active on social media and will respond to questions and concerns there as well.
Responsiveness & Helpfulness
Based on many reviews we found, customers generally feel that byte offers more responsive and thoughtful support than SmileDirectClub.
In fact, SmileDirectClub’s customer support has received mixed reviews over the years. Many SmileDirectClub customers have expressed dissatisfaction with the level of support they received or reported frustrating delays in aligner shipments. The volume of negative reviews and Better Business Bureau complaints accelerated around 2017 as SmileDirectClub attempted to grow its business extremely rapidly, creating inconsistencies in its customer support.
Over the past year or so, SmileDirectClub seems to be making an effort to improve its service quality and customer support issues. These efforts appear to be paying off, but byte still comes out on top. By all accounts, they’re extremely responsive on all channels.
For example, if you reach out on social media, you can expect a response within 24 hours. Even better is the fact that each byte customer is assigned their own personal advisor, who answers questions and checks in via email throughout the process. It’s like having your own personal guide for the teeth straightening journey.
SmileDirectClub offers a 30-day full refund window from the start of treatment if you have an immediate change of heart. Later on, if you find that you’re not making the progress you expected, they won’t offer a refund, but they will work with you to create new aligners and get your treatment back on track (provided you’ve followed their treatment protocol).
byte has similar policies but takes them to the next level. Their byte-for-life guarantee insures your smile forever. Imagine that your teeth shift five years after you complete treatment. byte will send you new aligners to shift them back. Ten years? New aligners. Twenty years? You guessed it – they’ll send you new aligners. You just can’t beat a lifetime warranty.
byte Company Background
SmileDirectClub Company Background
- Founded in 2018
- Quickly gained popularity due to their innovative technology and excellent customer service
- Currently one of the industry’s most promising new companies
- Founded in 2014
- Largest home aligner company in the industry.
- Has transformed over 750,000 smiles to date.
As we mentioned earlier, byte is the newest home aligner company to hit the market. Even so, they’ve had a quick rise to the top of our rankings because of their innovation and unmatched treatment times.
At first, we were unsure if byte could compete with an established industry giant like SmileDirectClub, which then had over 2,000 employees and had served over one hundred thousand customers (as of 2019, the numbers are even higher). But byte proved us wrong, jumping at an opportunity to become a formidable company themselves.
In many ways, SmileDirectClub appears to have grown too quickly, and the quality of their product and customer support has suffered as a result. This unfortunate decision led to many customer complaints and created an opening for byte to enter the arena promoting industry-best treatment times, unique technology, and exceptional customer support.
And customers quickly took notice. Since their introduction in 2018, byte has delivered on their claims for fast treatment times, quality products, and exemplary customer service. They continuously stay at the forefront of industry trends and technology, innovating new ways to increase their aligner effectiveness, convenience, and appearance. They’re the prodigy of the group, and they continue to show incredible promise. We’re excited to continue following byte to see where they go in the future.
For now, SmileDirectClub still holds the crown for convenience, and they’re working to make the startup process even more accessible by opening additional SmileShops across the country. But all things considered, byte is our overall top-ranked home aligner company and a fantastic all-around option for anyone seeking high-quality, fast, affordable treatment.
Which Home Teeth Aligner Should You Use?
As you can see, SmileDirectClub and byte have a lot in common, but their differences are where you want to focus when making a final decision. If you’re still not sure which business formation service to choose, let’s look at a couple scenarios that might help you figure out which is the better option for you.
Choose byte if You Are:
Looking to complete your treatment ASAP with orthodontist oversight and excellent customer service, and don’t mind working with a less-experienced company.
Choose SmileDirectClub if You Are:
More comfortable purchasing from the most well-established brand name, and aren’t worried about possible delays and subpar customer support. Bonus points if you live near a SmileShop location.